Once in a while, you may meet folks who have questions regarding two of the most important institutions in Igbere land – the ‘Age Grade System’ and ‘Igbere Welfare Union’. Recently, a social media blogger Mr. Obioma Onwubiko Ukaegbu posed questions regarding these two institution, and answers were provided by other Igbere people who are familiar with the roles played by the two institutions in the socio-economic development of the Igbere.
Mr. Obiome Ukaegbu’s questions are as follows:
- Is it sinful to belong to an Age grade in Igbere?
- Is it right for any age grade or community to expelled any Igberian from any branch of Igbere Welfare Union (IWU).
In his response, George O. Ijioma wrote:
“To the best of my knowledge, the age grade system as practiced in Igbere can’t take anyone to hell if the tenets of the system is adhered strictly.
“Firstly, it is through the age grade system that we have been able to attain the level of development. Majority of Igberians have benefited from the system including the renowned men of God. The schools, the Post Office, the Library, the Health Centre, etc., were all built by different age grades.
“Every society or institution has a substructure that helps it to survive. Virtually all churches have what is called cell groups or units that help them to run their affairs. Our age grade system might not be perfect just like every other institution on earth including the one we associate with in churches. Being a member of a church does not guarantee one heaven. Also being a member of an age grade cannot also stop one from making heaven.
“If those who don’t belong to age grade in Igbere have ways they are contributing to the development of Igbere, it should be encouraged. For me the development of Igbere should be paramount. My take: the age grade system keep us more united. Let charity begin from home.”
Moreover, Mr. Ikwechegh Anayochukw responded to Obioma Ukaegbu’s question saying, “I know the questions you have asked may also be running in he minds of many and therefore the need to make some points.”
“Age grade system as being practiced in Igbere of old and to a large extent now, is mainly as a convenience way for development and security of our land. As already stated by Mazi George, many projects in Igbere, done in 1950s, 60s to date were carried out mostly by age grades.”
“Before now, age grades were also used to guard our land both day and night to insure the safety of lives and properties of our people. Therefore, belonging to an Age grade in itself is not sinful. However, it is what you do in the age grade as an individual that determines whether you have sinned or not. The word of God said, ‘you are in the world but not of the world’. This implies that you can belong to a system (like the age grade) and still stand out as light.”
“Age grade is “otu enyi” (friendly association ) and legally speaking everyone has the right to belong or otherwise without being harassed. However, bearing the uses of age grade, if one decides not to belong, it means that there must be a way such person will get himself visibly involved in any development /welfare issues of the Igbere villege or town.
“Age grade system and Igbere Welfare Union (IWU) are two different things, though with strong cord between them which makes people to think that age grades “flow into IWU.
IWU was not founded by and for age grades. But by Igbere people for the all round welfare of Igbere. And any Igbere person of age, irrespective of whether you belong to an age grade or not is supposed to be a member . In some cities, I do know that some people who are not in any age grade do attend IWU meetings and make individual contributions (financially and otherwise ) and even come as group, under the aegis of ‘Igbere brethren’.
“On the issue of holding official position in IWU, to me is a constitutional matter. What does the constitution of IWU say in that regard? Does it specify that any one seeking for an elective or non elective post in IWU, among other qualifications must be a member of an age grade? If that is so, it means the tenet of the constitution must be upheld. And where one thinks the constitution is faulty, he may campaign for an amendment.”
According to Revtimothy Nduka Peter, “age grade is a socio-cultural organization and has nothing to do with African traditional religion, but if we practice libation like the adherents of African traditional religion, this one is quite against the system of Christ, because the practice of libation is a way by which African traditional religionists communicate to their dead ancestors in order to appease them and thereby seek their assistance and protection, which is ancestral worship and it is idolatry.
“However, I give God the glory that our people do not practice such, in fact the importance of age grade institution in Igbere community cannot be over emphasized, I would say in a nut shell, that Igere has achieved a lot through it, and I encourage our youth to identify with this institution and be a part of Igbere development programme.”